It Might Be Legal, but It Sure Isn’t Ethical!

I don’t rant often, but I must warn you. There’s a doozy ahead.

My Initial Contact With DirecTV

As you all know, we moved in September. At the time, we signed up for a bundle package through Qwest that included our home phone and DirecTV. When I agreed to the service, I was told by the Qwest representative that I would receive 200+ channels for $44.99 a month, as long as I agreed to an 18 month contract. I asked a whole bunch of questions. In the end, I agreed.

He then asked whether I’d like to receive Starz and Showtime free for 3 months. I said no, as I was sure in the midst of moving, I’d forget to cancel. Plus I don’t watch Starz and Showtime anyway.

The day came for our service to be hooked up. The technician came out and hooked up our service. He handed me a poorly photocopied paper, wrote the web address and customer service number on the paper, and said I’d need to fill out the information online if I wanted an $18 rebate. He then pulled out another paper, and fully explained why I would want to pay an extra few dollars a month for a service protection agreement. He completely explained what that would cover and all the details.

Fine. I signed up for it.

I tried to fill out the rebate form online, but something was wrong with the site, and it wouldn’t go through. I honestly don’t remember if I ever called it in. I was in the middle of moving, and I very well might have decided a one time $18 rebate wasn’t worth the hassle.

DirecTV’s Customer Service

Fast forward to yesterday. I received my Qwest bill, and it was quite a bit higher than I anticipated. Upon further investigation, I saw that I was being charged $23 for Starz and Showetime, and my basic package had gone up to $62.99! I immediately called Qwest, who forwarded my call to DirecTV.

I explained the problem to them. The woman on the line explained that she could cancel Starz and Showtime, but I would have to pay a prorated fee of $17 something. And then she explained that there was absolutely nothing she could do about my package price, because I hadn’t turned in the rebate form within the 60 day time frame. What??? I told her I had no idea that I needed to turn in a rebate form to get the special price.

She then asked if I filled out a rebate, and I told her I’m sure I probably did. She asked how I submitted it, and I said I’d probably mailed it in, because that’s how I normally submit rebates. Then she informed me that that was impossible. After thinking about it, I remembered the aggravating night on the computer. Yes, I tried to submit it. It didn’t work.

Frustrated, I asked to talk to a supervisor. She said it could be a long hold, but she’d transfer me. After 10 minutes on hold, she hung up on me. I was not happy.

I made another phone call and got the same song and dance from a different person. I contacted @DirecTV on Twitter. I must say, he impressed me with his quick response. He took my account number and told me a customer service specialist would be calling me shortly. And someone did.

However, like all the other customer service representatives, she said “the system” would not allow her to make the necessary adjustment to bring my rate back down to $44.95 a month. However, she did assure me that she could offer me a $5 discount every month. $5??? Are you kidding me??? What an insult!

I asked how much it would cost to cancel my service, and she said it would be $320, since I was on a 24 month contract. Did you catch that? I was initially told I’d be on an 18 month contract, but suddenly I’m on a 24 month contract. The sad part is, I’m seriously thinking of paying the cancellation fee, so I can be done with them.

I’m Not Alone

I promise, I’m getting to my point.

One of my blogging buddies, David from My Two Dollars, had the exact same experience with DirecTV. And upon further investigation, we’re not the only two people. Qwest customer service said they had another complaint just like mine yesterday. (And don’t think I’m letting Qwest off the hook. They’ll be getting another call from me today).

A quick internet and twitter search found:

Apparently DirecTV’ s reputation isn’t great in my home state of Oregon, or with the BBB. According to the article, the Oregon Attorney General has received over 200 complaints about DirecTV (“a large number”), and the Better Business Bureau rates DirecTV as a “C”. When I filed my complaint last night, they were down to a “C-“. One more step down, and the BBB won’t consider them acceptable anymore, unless you are aware of the issues with the company.

Charter, to my surprise, has an “A” rating. Comcast has a “B” rating. Dish Network, which I left in favor of DirecTV, has a “B” rating too. I should have read the ratings before I switched my service.

Is it Legal?

The short answer is probably. All three representatives informed me that legally all they had to do was hand over the rebate form, and that was considered fair notification that I had to submit the rebate to get my promotional price for the duration of my contract. That’s it. The form doesn’t even have to be legible. They just have to give it to you. It doesn’t matter if the person who signed you up failed to mention the necessity of submitting a rebate. It doesn’t matter that the person who hands you the form makes it sound like it’s a one time rebate, not a monthly thing.

Is it Ethical?

Not on your life. I don’t know most of the people I linked to above, but I do know David of My Two Dollars. I know that both of us are intelligent enough to talk about personal finance on the web well enough that people are willing to read our sites. Both of us are fairly well educated and I might even add…smart.

I find it strange that both of us would feel taken advantage of by DirecTV. If DirecTV can fool two reasonably tech savvy people like David and I, I wonder how many others have been fooled. And taken advantage of.

Whatever happened to truth in advertising? When a price is quoted me, with no stipulations mentioned, I expect to get that price. When a service agreement that puts more money into DirecTV’s pocket is explained in detail, yet a rebate form that will save me money is handed to me on an illegible paper with no explanation that it’s really important, it makes me wonder if it’s intentional. I can’t say for sure, but it feels that way.

And when I’m hung up on by a customer service representative and told that “the system” can’t help a customer, then that system needs to be changed. In fact, I mentioned that to the “customer service specialist” that I talked to last. I told her that I know of at least two other instances where this had happened to other people, and that if the same issue kept arising, perhaps they need to look into the way they’re doing business.

Her response? “Perhaps you’re right. We’ll look into it.”

Maybe she will, but I’m not holding my breath. And that doesn’t help those of us who have already been taken advantage of.

In this season of our country, when companies are fighting to stay alive, you’d think customer service would be more important. I got better treatment at a used car dealership.

Photo by brianc.



Author

By , on Feb 18, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{84 Comments}

  1. Miranda:

    First I want to start off saying that it is sad for me to hear stories such as yours and so many others, and I want to apologize about the poor experience you have had with Direct TV. My name is Miranda, and I wanted to let you know about some things that I know on a first hand basis. Starting with being a long time DISH network customer, I really like it. I was hesitant at first to get it because I heard horror stories about losing service often- that hasn’t been the case what so ever! I haven’t lost a signal in over a year! Being a consumer myself I understand and appreciate your caution when approaching a big change with providers such as this. Not only am I a long time subscriber of DISH network (9 years ) , but I am an employee as well and I can honestly tell you that I personally strive for excellence. DISH is the leading provider in HD, Customer Service and Loyalty. As I am sure you have heard, three strikes and your out? Direct TV has more then three strikes and I think that you need to throw them out and keep them out. DISH and I are always more than happy to help our existing customers, our new customers and our future customers find and keep their satisfaction. I would be more than happy to help you in your quest to find a new provider, if there are any questions I can answer for you please feel free to message me back at your earliest convenience and we will get this resolved!

  2. TERESA:

    I am the latest victim. I should have known better. All of the above comments about DTV is so accurate.
    DTV IS THE WORSE EVER COMPANY I HAVE DELT WITH IN THE PAST 2 WEEKS
    Wasted…. total of 8hrs waiting for technician to arrive (2 separate occassions) because the quality of initial instillation is so bad; total of another 6hrs of being on the phone with many different CSR who can only say: “I appologize…. I understand….”

    Why will anyone in thier right state of mind go to DTV? Me, only because I was suckered in by $250 rebate with Best Buy after buying a Samsung 3D 55″ 8000Series :(

  3. John:

    DirecTV = IFC ( Incompetent F*cking C*cksuckers)… I had the exact same experience, and it’s not do to lack of consumer knowledge as I run a business and have in depth experience working with contracts. This company is run by criminals, period. Once my lawyer contacted them, they still tried to wiesel me for half of what they supposedly deemed necessary to illegally overcharge. I highly recommend straying far away from this company and their floating contracts. They should be shut down, but our government breeds upon corruption.

  4. Karen:

    I’m a current DirectTV customer as well. I did not know that many people had this much complaints with them. I don’t have as much of a terrible experience with them but I still don’t like it that much.
    I got the international package with the basic choice.
    I just find out today that I had this one other channel on my international package (never knew I had this before). I was just absent minded and didn’t know my package. I was gonna ask for a credit for the past year without this channel … but decided not to since it’s my fault. I figured this out because I was gonna call in to order this channel, that I apparently already have, and after looking online I was supposed to have it!! But every time I flip through it, the screen says CHANNEL NOT PURCHASED!. Apparently I should have called in so they can send the signal to my receiver! SO that’s my year plus without this one channel (and 5 of them cost $24.99)… international is so expensive!

    Also I saw on tv and online some deals for the base English channels, and a bundle as well, BUT apparently these new deals are ONLY FOR NEW CUSTOMERS!!

    I can’t stand it! JUST TRY TO KEEP YOUR CURRENT CUSTOMERS HAPPY INSTEAD OF RIPPING THEM OFF!

    Oh, and I also bought the protection plan since there were toooooo many times when there were no signal and I had to get a technician over. and after 90 days these repairs were no longer free so i had to get protection plan. And I haven’t called a technician since i started the plan. what a waste of money! And i’m supposed to keep this plan for i think 12 months? or so…

    My contract is 24 months (which i found very weird at the beginning) because usually tv contracts are 12 months. but i signed up anyways because my parents wanted international channels.

  5. chictown:

    Direct TV is a horror show. It isn’t so much Direct TV as the low bidder outsourced technicians that DTV sends to your home.

    Our service has been out for the week. Saturday was the only time that we could cut out of our calendar. They still give 4 hour windows for service at this company. So we canceled our plans to sit home on Saturday morning. They were supposed to call an hour and a half ahead of the visit. That time came and went.

    I call them back after 12. And am told “sorry” but the best we can do is Monday. After several phone calls I get a cancellation for this afternoon with a window between 12 and 4. I cancel the date I have with my wife…and sit in. For three hours….again no phone call. I call them and ask what is going on. They tell me that I called and canceled the appointment. Uggggg…….

    DTV doesn’t really honor their contract to provide you TV service. But yet they will charge me $400+ if I want to cancel this. I didn’t think that you could find customer service worse than Comcast. But wasting an entire day and more of sometime next week….I want to cancel.

    Direct TV has been in formed of all this. They said I have two choices. Pay the $400 for cancelation and eat the cost of all the equipment. $280.

    ~direct tv customer 083308966

  6. Jessau Niemeyer:

    I have had a similar experience with this company and I am 27 and in all my years have never felt so swindled by a company. They told me that I could fill the rebates out online which I did and then when the tech came, it was discovered that my order was all wrong so the old acct had to be deleted for some reason I don’t understand and then a new acct # had to be reissued. Well I was never told I would have to go and fill out the rebates AGAIN with the new account #. So I was quite shocked when my 34/month deal ended up being a 90 dollar bill. So after calling in and telling the customer service about this they acted like I was lying that I hadn’t been told to fill out the rebates and told me finallly I had to go online again, which I did and the website didn’t work. After a total bill of 180 for 2 mos and at least 2 hours on the phone with this company they finallly believe me that the rebate submission didn’t work and after numerous attitudes of apathy from supervisors finally one person realized that why it didn’t work online for the rebates. I still don’t know if this issue is resolved because there was a credit given and it went to the research department where there was vague answers given to me about what would happen.. Talk about a nightmare!!! The early term fee is 480 and I feel completely trapped. After looking at the BBB, this company now has an F for a grade

  7. Reader:

    Yes, DirecTV revulses me also, although this post is not another rant, but notification of possible relief. Among the issues I have had is a similar story to what has been mentioned above. Upon attempting to cancel service, DirecTV told me that I would have to pay an early termination fee. I told them that I was looking at the contract that had been signed 2½ years ago, and that it was for 24 months. I never signed a new contract. How could there be an early termination fee? THEN the rep said, “Oh, I see what happened. Somehow your contract re-set itself when we replaced a faulty receiver. You are absolutely right: you do not have to pay the early termination fee, and I will get that fixed in our system.” I thought it was just a quirk, and had no idea until reading this blog that this was their standard operating procedure. They must have ripped off thousands of people using that line.

    I hope this information helps somebody avoid hundreds of dollars in bogus fees. Wouldn’t it be great if somebody had enough energy to start a class-action lawsuit against them for this type of fraud? It almost makes me wish I had been charged with that fee so that I could be part of the team that bites them back.

  8. Opa:

    Have had Directv since ’07, and somehow my 24 month contract is not expired yet, as I replaced a faulty receiver in Jan ’09, so I chose to cut my losses and pay $320. penalty, which they erroneously posted as $520…so another phone call to correct that! If contract renews whenever equipment needs replacing, contract could be life-long! I think I remember paying them a cancellation fee several years ago due to dissatisfaction with customer service and company policies. I don’t live in an area with cable access.

  9. Sam:

    Don’t know if it’d help but I’m wondering if it might be a good idea to file a complaint with your State’s atty general or whomever takes bad businesses complaints?
    The Better Business Bureau won’t do anything unless the company is the member – so it’d need to the govt office that takes & possibly consumer complaints. For me it’d be the atty general.

    That way if Direct TV tries to take any action against you, you’d have something of a paper trail to show that they were in the wrong to begin with and that’d you’d already taken action against them?

    Just an idea – don’t know if it’s a good one or not…. my son’s Dad used to get mixed up with places like that a lot & I just kinda adapted a “nip it in the bud” perspective so that if it got ugly they’d drop it & go away.

  10. I am so sorry that I did not see these posts before I signed up for Direct TV for our business… I called the 800# and spoke to a friendly representative and told them that we were moving our business and that the new place did not have cable reception so we were investigating our satellite options. He said great! and went on to give the sales pitch of his life. I signed up for the $24.99 package and scheduled an install date AT OUR STORE and the tech came and installed the dish AT OUR STORE. One week later I get a nasty call from the “fraud department” from a nasty, uneducated girl named Brittnay – telephone number 310-964-2886 if you want to harrass her – telling me that I was committing a fraud by having a residential acct at a business… I said EXCUSE ME?!? FRAUD?! I gave the name of my business, I gave the address of my business, I told the guy it was a business and a tech came to my business to set up the service by drilling a HOLE in the side of my building – How did I commit a fraud?! DirectTV is commiting a fraud by selling me a on lost cost package and then once everything is installed switching on me to a “business package” which is nearly 3x the price .. I said to her — who do I CALL about a fraud perpetrated against me?! And she of course – with her high school education continued to read from her script… refused to transfer me to anyone and told me if I did not call the Commercial Accts dept my service would be suspended…The person at the commercial dept was very understanding but said that yes, I would need to switch to a business acct for $69.99 a month … and I said no – that unless they figured something out they would have to send a tech to my BUSINESS and take their equipment back — and since THEY were changing the terms of the contract I would not pay anything… We’ll see… I am cancelling my credit card today so they cannot start charging me for things like happened to the people on this site … at least I read your notes in time for that! I’ll keep you posted as to how things progress…

  11. Ramon Ortega:

    I need to talk to a REAL person about changing my package, now!
    I have the “NFL Sunday Ticket…..I have the option to change it , now. I can’t get into your system to get you all my account number
    and change it to: Choice Ultimate, please help me make this NOW.
    I’ve called the 1-800-531-5000 and ge nowhere with this system.
    It tells to go to this web site and this is the first time I can put something in writing, but what will I get?? I talked to a REAL persom at the on set, but now, nothing!! I need your help, pronto, please?!?!

  12. David:

    Would you reward a kid for stealing from your purse? Of course you wouldn’t.Then why is the NFL rewarding Directv with exclussive rights? They lie , cheat , and steal.They charge you to lease their equipment , then charge you upto $5.99 to protect it against repairs.T…hey will also make unauthorized charges to your credit/debit card.This is 100% accurate , google directv complainsts , it will blow your mind , they had over 20,000 complaints in 3 years , thats a BBB record.They have 3 lawsuits pending , in California , Washington , and Oregon.This does not include the silent suits.My goal is to get congress to open the NFL Sunday Ticket to cable companies , And all Satellite companies , At the top there is a Petition , my goal is to get 10,000 signatures then I’m sending the petition to congress.America needs competition , what if there was only 1 electrc company , gas company , Or auto maker?You Get the point , Thanks for your support!

  13. k croft:

    Direct TV…$100.00 visa pre-paid card be careful…. We have been with dish 25 years and then decided to move to Direct TV partially due to the $100.00 rebate…well after 3 months I still had not received it… I contacted Direct and of course they said I did not agree to have auto pay…which I was not told that… I also ask to speak to a manager and was told there was not anyone higher than her and that it just the way it is… BAD BUSINESS…when asked about canceling my account she said for $400.00 I could do that..what about customer service….

  14. David:

    How directv is still in business is beyond me.I’ve had them for 7+ years , and besides them leasing their equipment then charging an addintional 5.99 to protect it most of them were good until 2 years ago.Well the final whammy all happened in the past 3-4 months.I lost a job i’ve been at for 10 years , due to the economic times , in November work slowed down so bad it was pay my diretv bill or feed my family.Well I called directv to cancel and explained my situation.The CSR seemed so nice , gave me credits so my bill was far less.Well the end of the year work shut it’s doors , I got a new job working for a condo building , part of package I have to live on site , well they dont allow satellite , so I called directv to cancel , the CSR says ok , I said send me a final bill and I’ll pay it in 2 payments.She said no problem sir , well less then a week later directv used my debit card (without permission) to take out an outragous amount forcing me to go overdrawn.I called and emailed directv , noone helped me , So I filed a complaint with the BBB , and atty’ general’s office , and of course disputed it with my bank.All the directv CSR say is , we dont need to give you a notice , or paper bill it’s in our service agreement.

  15. Kim:

    We remarkably are having issues trying to become direct tv customers again. You would think that they would be thrilled to have another sucker come back and over charge us. Not the case, they say one thing and when you agree to it and pay the money they change everything around and want even more money than what you already have paid. So we are now out what we originally paid them and still have no resolution. 19 customer service reps. and every dept. in the place and we are still out 100 dollars and they want more. Lovely guys!! Nice of you to hit people while they are down.

  16. Suleman Sobani:

    I have received extremely poor service from your Direct TV. The sales team assured us that service during windy/rainy conditions was uninterrupted except during extreme conditions. Our experience is that even during mild wind and rain the service is problematic. The initial installation was so poorly done that the dish had to be realigned within a week and the entire installation had to be redone within two months. Incidentally, the company has no record of a technician coming to our house the first time. That is Scary. While I was deployed, my wife had a hard time getting proper service and had to get help from our neighbors in getting a service tech to come out and fix the issue. The result was weeks with out proper service. Finally, my wife gave up trying to get the problems fixed and waited for me to return from my deployment. Direct TV took this as a sign the service was trouble free. I was also overcharged for movie channels I had not ordered and had to argue over a long distance call from the Middle East to get the charges corrected. I called customer service and spoke to a Ms. Raychel (Employee # 100363549) who said a supervisor would call me within 72 hours. There was no call back. I called customer service and asked to speak to a supervisor. I was transferred to a Ms. Jennifer (Employee # X3136) who claimed to be a supervisor. She gave her supervisor’s name as Ms. Lashonda but that she was not available then transferred me to a Mr. Sergion (Employee # 210221). Mr. Sergion was unable to give me a job title and claimed to be the highest level supervisor at Direct TV. Mr. Sergion told me that customer service was not answerable to customers and rather that the customer was to act according to what customer service directed. SO THAT’S WHAT THE DIRECT IN DIRECT TV STANDS FOR. WELL SLAP MY BUTT AND CALL ME CHARLIE. Direct TV has not kept the promise of good service. We have suffered through faulty installations, bad service, and rude service representatives. Don’t ever deal with these clowns. EVER.

  17. Stephanie Burden:

    I have to agree with you that Qwest & Direct TV are a nightmere. We have had nothing but service issues with Qwest that they can not resolve and have stopped coming out to fix. Direct TV has charged me fees for things they gave us free to make up for destroying our sprinkler system when installing their dish at our home. When we moved they said we would get three months free of HBO and Starz and I called for three months in a row asking where the channels were with no fix. We finally gave up. So we are at the end of our contract in July 2010 and I will dump both companies and try to find someone who lives up to their claims. I get so angry everytime I see Direct TV’s commercial for great customer service and problem solving. IT IS A LIE! They do not do what they say so beware if you are considering going into a contract with Direct TV or Qwest both company’s get an F for being honest!

  18. katiya:

    I’m about ready to dump Comcast because the price seems to go up around $6 every six months or so. Most TV is horrid anyhow so why should I pay for it if I can watch online. I do need my high speed for my laptop though. I wouldn’t have Dish Network or any satellite since I have seen enough of that bait and switch from family and friends alike. I would say never sign something arbitrarily without understanding what you are agreeing to. It seems some of the cell phone companies and cable/satellite are notorious for this game. Keep on complaining to the BBB and Attorney General and maybe some of these companies will buy a clue or a class action suit may yield better results.

  19. Windy City Woman:

    Wow, what horror stories with pay TV! I live in a condominium which decided to buy a bulk package for cable. We each pay about half what we would pay if we each contracted separately for the service. Those of you who live in condos, townhouses or even apartments might want to see if this option is possible where you live. We’ve had this for about 12 years. At first it was annoying because the cable would go out periodically, and you could never get them on the phone. But now that they have competition (there are now 2 companies in Chicago), this has not been a problem. It sounds weird that the 3rd largest city did not have cable for years; then there was 1 company; now there are 2. But this city is weird in some ways.

    Some of you mentioned that one can go cold turkey and use just free TV. Sometimes in big cities that isn’t possible. Our building is in a neighborhood with lots of high rises (though our building is low) which interfere with TV reception. If you don’t have either cable, an antenna or satellite in this neighborhood (north side, near Lake Michigan, for those of you who know Chicago), you just don’t get reception. In the bad old days (until about 2 – 3 years ago), when the cable went out, we got nothing…only CBS, in pink and orange snow, with sound. So some people must have a pay service to get any TV at all. I realize this is a situation probably unique to major cities full of high-rise buildings.

  20. Maria:

    I agree with Chuck. Everybody should realize that companies will try to get more money any way they can. Signing paperwork without asking questions is the worst thing you can do. If you’re too busy to ask questions, then put off the purchase.

    If you feel so strongly that there’s a scam going on, get a lawyer and file a class action lawsuit.

  21. Kristen:

    My guess is that Chuck either: A) Works for DirecTV, or B) Is one of those amazingly perfect people who goes through life and never makes a mistake, so he thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to be rude and throw stones at others.

  22. Chuck:

    Know you don’t want to hear this, but stop blaming others for your incompetence. Guess you thought it was much easier to blindly sign a contract agreement from a stranger than to actually read it. I hadn’t had cable in about 15 years and decided to splurge. I did have a billing issue with DirectTV, but it was promptly rectified. I just couldn’t justify paying so much to watch TV when there’s so much free broadcasts on. I canceled my contract, paid the 300 or so cancellation fee after 3 months of service and will still have over 800 dollars in my pocket in the end. Get a digital converter and an antenna. Rent free movies from your local library. Record the best shows to watch when there is not much on. And stop complaining for “your” stupidity.

  23. Bill McClure:

    thanks for the heads up.

  24. Gg:

    I have DirectTV, but not though anyone. They have always been fast to fix anything. The service i have is 7 years old with no issues so far. Also…do not get tangled up with DISH. What a nightmare. No customer service, no response to calls, no show for 4 separate appts. I would rather be without TV service and use hulu.com.

  25. Les:

    I”ve had trouble with the local phone service. If I don’t do all of the research at their website on prices and services they will take advantage of my lack of knowledge. I’ve called 3 months in a row to lower my bill and I’d love to find an affordable plan that includes internet service. I don’t watch TV thank goodness I can’t believe what people pay for that crap.

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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.

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